Tyto alba Click to enlarge image
A Barn Owl is pictured standing on a tree log at night. The picture is from a close, front-view and its illuminated colouring is visible to the viewer. One wing is partly opened, showing its all-white feathers underneath, whilst the other is almost closed, showing the spotted-white brown and black feathers on the top. Its underbelly is white with black spots, whilst its legs and face are all-white. Its white face has a brown, heart-shaped ring around it. The owl has a brown, narrow beak and brown feet. Image: Glen Threlfo
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
  • Size Range
    Up to 39 cm.

Medium sized, white facial disc, orange grey body, white cream underneath.


A medium-sized owl with a white ‘heart-shaped' facial disc. The body is sandy orange and light grey above, and white to cream underneath. Both the back and breast are evenly spotted with black. Young birds are similar to adults in plumage and females are slightly larger than males.


Open, often arid (dry) country, such as farms, heath and lightly-wooded forest.


Eastern Australia.

Feeding and diet

It feeds mostly on small mammals, rats and mice, and birds, but some insects, frogs and lizards are also eaten.

Other behaviours and adaptations

It is a moderately common bird, but generally hard to see, as it is nocturnal. During the day, the birds roost in hollow logs, caves or on concealed tree branches, emerging at night to hunt. It uses its exceptional hearing to search for prey on the ground. The slightest sound waves are channelled toward the ears, allowing the owl to pinpoint prey even in complete darkness. Barn Owls are the most widespread of the owls, found on every continent in the world except Antarctica.


It is generally a quiet bird, with the common call being a 12 second rough, hissing screech. Less frequently, birds give whistling, wheezing notes and some snapping and bill clacking during mating and threat displays.